Story by Kayla Harrell, Staff writer
The spray of a fire extinguisher putting out a contained fire, the intense water flowing through a heavy fire hose attached to the bright red firetruck and a hotdog burning like a gloveless finger wound against an electricity wire are a few things that captured students’ attention as they walked through campus.
Fire Safety Day took place on Murray State’s campus last Thursday to bring “awareness to students during campus fire safety month,” said Susan Miller, safety training coordinator in the office of environmental safety and health.
While students walked through campus, stations were set up to give the students the knowledge and awareness needed in hazardous situations.
“It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get through all of the stations,” Miller said.
Carrie Thomas, Murray State fire safety and regulation compliance coordinator, said the stations show students what procedures are needed if they find themselves in a situation involving fire.
“Each station involves a hands-on activity including using a fire extinguisher, escaping a smoke-filled room and escaping a car accident involving a utility pole,” she said.
After completing all of the stations, each student received a free T-shirt.
COMMON CAUSES FOR FIRES
“The most common causes of fire, or threat of fire, on campus are related to cooking and improper use of electric equipment,” Thomas said.
Thirty-eight of 89 fires from 2000 to present were due to cooking, candles, smoking or electricity, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety.
Sky Eagle, sophomore from Dover, Tennessee, and Thomas suggest not overloading outlets or extension cords.
“Fire safety will always be relevant because of electricity,” Eagle said.
As more incidents occur, the need for better protection and knowledge of fires is rising. While some fires are easily extinguished, others are difficult to contain and can be harmful to those nearby.
In the past 15 years, 89 fires that killed 126 people occurred on college campuses, in Greek housing or in off-campus housing within three miles of a campus, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Fourteen of the 89 fires were intentional and considered arson while at least 38 were unintentional, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety.
On Sept. 13, 1998, a fire occurred in Hester Residential College. This fire was ruled an arson, although after investigations, authorities were unable to determine the arsonist’s identity, according to the Enquirer’s June 2001 article.
Five days later, the fourth floor of Hester caught fire. This incident led to the death of sophomore Michael Minger, caused by smoke inhalation, and the injury of Michael Priddy. This fire occurred when a student poured more than a gallon of gasoline on the carpet and struck a match.
In 2001, Jerry Wayne Walker Jr. was charged with starting the Hester fire on Sept. 18, 1998, but the trial ended in a hung jury. Eleven years later, the case was opened for a re-trial, according to WKMS July 2012 article.
Since the fire in 1998, precautions have been increased throughout campus for fire safety.
Murray Fire Chief Eric Pologruto said the biggest safety advancement was the installation of automatic fire sprinklers in the residential colleges.
Along with the sprinklers, kitchen safety was added to the residential colleges. Thomas said the access to cooking equipment is restricted without the use of a key.
Residential colleges make an emphasis on explaining to their residents the procedures to take if there is a fire emergency.
“The buildings have emergency procedures posters for campus fires hanging on the walls,” Eagle said.
However, even with the advanced safety technology, the campus still deals with fire hazards. According to the Murray State crime log, there have been at least six reported fires, unintentional and arson, since February 2015.
Murray State sophomore Katelyn Buzzard, from Sturgis, Kentucky, said a fire is “something that could happen at any time to anyone.”
Thomas said the Fire Safety Day allows students to interact with local agencies including the Murray Fire Department, West KY RECC and State Fire Rescue Training. The connections students make with these departments can become beneficial if they are ever in a fire emergency.
The event also allowed students, like Eagle, that are currently taking a fire safety class to receive hands-on experience. These students had a chance to take what they learned in the classroom and see the effects in real life.
“The components of Fire Safety Day come together to give students a fun and interesting way to learn more about precautions,” Buzzard said.
As students move from one station to another, their knowledge of fire safety increases.
“The department of environmental safety and health is proactive in providing fire safety training to RA’s and RD’s and to all new employees,” Thomas said. “Campus Fire Safety Day provides the entire student body with access to fire prevention and fire safety training.”